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Floyd v. Bateman

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division

May 29, 2019

JAKELIA BATEMAN, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 while incarcerated at Smith State Prison in Glennville, Georgia, in order to contest certain conditions of confinement. Doc. 1. On June 28, 2018, this Court deferred ruling on Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis and directed Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint. Doc. 5. The Court received Plaintiff's Amended Complaint on July 30, 2018. Doc. 6. For the reasons set out below, I DENY Plaintiff's Motions to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, docs. 2, 7, and RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint without prejudice for failure to follow a Court Order. I also RECOMMEND the Court DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.[1]


         Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the Court may authorize the filing of a civil lawsuit without the prepayment of fees if the plaintiff submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all of his assets and shows an inability to pay the filing fee and also includes a statement of the nature of the action which shows that he is entitled to redress. Even if the plaintiff proves indigence, the Court must dismiss the action if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). Additionally, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity. Upon such screening, the Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or which seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         When reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is guided by the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 (“A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain [among other things] . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 10 (requiring that claims be set forth in numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set of circumstances). Additionally, a plaintiff may not join unrelated claims and various defendants unless the claims “arise out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a). Notably, Rule 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires parties to state claims “in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances, ” and bring “each claim founded on a separate transaction or occurrence” in a separately numbered count. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10. Rules 8 and 10 are “supposed to work in tandem ‘to require the pleader to present his claims discretely and succinctly, so that (1) his adversary can discern what he is claiming and frame a responsive pleading, and (2) the court can determine which facts support which claims, and whether the plaintiff has stated any claims upon which relief can be granted.'” Fotse v. LendingHome Funding Corp., No. 1:18-cv-03181, 2018 WL 7019359, at *3 (N.D.Ga. Sept. 11, 2018) (quoting Fikes v. City of Daphne, 79 F.3d 1079, 1082- 83 (11th Cir. 1996)).

         Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Thompson v. Rundle, 393 Fed.Appx. 675, 678 (11th Cir. 2010). Under that standard, this Court must determine whether the complaint contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plaintiff must assert “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not” suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Section 1915 also “accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)). Further, a claim is frivolous under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) “if it is ‘without arguable merit either in law or fact.'” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Bilal, 251 F.3d at 1349).

         In its analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle that the pleadings of unrepresented parties are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and, therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys . . . .” (emphasis omitted) (quoting Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003))). However, Plaintiff's unrepresented status will not excuse mistakes regarding procedural rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“We have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”).


         Plaintiff filed this action, along with a Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, on April 30, 2018.[2] Docs. 1, 2. Plaintiff's original Complaint named 127 Defendants, set forth unrelated allegations, and failed to make clear “which claims corresponded with which Defendants.” Doc. 5 at 1, 3. On June 28, 2018, this Court deferred ruling on Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, finding it impossible to “determine whether Plaintiff states a viable claim given the current condition of his Complaint.” Id. However, rather than dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint outright, the Court ordered Plaintiff to submit an Amended Complaint within 14 days of the Court's Order. Id. at 3-5. The Court also provided Plaintiff a detailed list of directives to help guide him in drafting a proper Complaint. Id. at 4-5. The Court cautioned Plaintiff that “fail[ure] to abide by [the Court's] directive[s]” could result in dismissal. Id. at 5.

         Under the Court's Order, Plaintiff had until July 12, 2018 to submit his Amended Complaint. Id. However, the Court did not receive Plaintiff's Amended Complaint until July 28, 2018. Doc. 6. “Under the ‘prison mailbox rule,' a pro se prisoner's court filing is deemed filed on the date it is delivered to prison authorities for mailing.” Daker v. Comm'r, Ga. Dep't of Corr., 820 F.3d 1278, 1286 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Williams v. McNeil, 557 F.3d 1287, 1290 n.2 (11th Cir. 2009)). Here, while the postmark on the envelope is faint, it appears to read “Mon 23 Jul.”[3] Doc. 6 at 9. Moreover, Plaintiff signed his Amended Complaint, as well as the accompanying Certificate of Service and the Verification, on July 14, 2018. Id. at 7-8. Thus, Plaintiff failed to timely file his Complaint or request for an extension.

         The Court also ordered Plaintiff to “draft his Amended Complaint on the complaint form provided by the Clerk of Court” and to “clearly caption it as an amendment to the original complaint . . . .” Doc. 5 at 4. Although the Clerk of Court sent Plaintiff another copy of this Court's standard form for pro se § 1983 prisoner actions, Plaintiff merely copied that form onto his own paper. Doc. 6. Plaintiff did explain that he “was not able to send the original complaint” because an officer moved him and confiscated his property, including certain legal materials. Doc. 6-1. The Court will construe this liberally to mean that prison officials confiscated Plaintiff's copy of the § 1983 complaint form the Clerk's Office provided. The Court notes, however, that Plaintiff does not explain how, despite the claimed confiscation, he still managed to copy the form in its entirety. Moreover, Plaintiff, instead of circumventing the Court's Order, could have requested another copy of the form from the Clerk's Office and moved for an extension of time to file his Amended Complaint. Finally, instead of “clearly caption[ing]” the document “as an amendment to the original complaint” as ordered by the Court, Plaintiff labeled his Amended Complaint: “Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights.” Doc. 6 at 1.

         More importantly, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint still suffers from many of the same defects contained in his original Complaint. Compare Doc. 1 & Doc. 5, with Doc. 6; see Muhammad v. Muhammad, 561 Fed.Appx. 834, 835 (11th Cir. 2014) (“Because [plaintiff's] amended complaint was very similar to his original complaint, it is clear that he did not obey the court's order to produce a pleading that complied with federal standards.”). First, despite the Court's order to “provide the name of each intended defendant, ” Plaintiff lists twelve witnesses (including himself) as parties to his Complaint but names as Defendants the “entire Georgia Department of Correction[s]” and “Smith State Prison . . . [f]rom their commissioner [and] warden to their COIs” as well as “offenders . . . housed at this facility.” Doc. 5 at 4; Doc. 6 at 1- 2. It remains impossible for the Court to determine what Defendants Plaintiff is bringing his action against and which claims relate to which Defendants.[4] Doc. 5 at 3; Doc. 6 at 1-4. Additionally, Plaintiff continues to assert a variety of unrelated claims, most of which allege only legal conclusions, void of necessary facts. Doc. 6 at 2-4.

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that Kentavious Ellis, owner of Locked and Loaded Publications, is stealing his ideas for a book and desires to make a movie based on Plaintiff's ideas without Plaintiff's consent.[5] Id. at 2-3. He contends that “a female staff member” gave Kentavious Ellis his book, and Ellis and other officers are now trying to make a movie based on Plaintiff's ideas. Id. That unnamed officer told Plaintiff that “she was trying to kill [him] and wanted to give Kentavious Ellis [his] ideas.” Id. Plaintiff claims that various unnamed officers, including Kentavious Ellis, would sit by cell doors and allow other inmates to harass Plaintiff and call Plaintiff names and that these officers enter the prison dormitories while “wearing casual clothes' in order to “encourage the offenders” to harass Plaintiff. Id.

         According to Plaintiff, officers “passed tape recorders” and “radios around the . . . dormitory to harass [Plaintiff]” and “aimed [security] cameras at [Plaintiff]” to “listen[] to everything [Plaintiff] was doing” and then “discuss[ed] it amongst other staff members and offenders.” Id. at 2. Plaintiff avers that unnamed officers “tr[ied] to kill” him by “stalk[ing] him with their cameras even when [he] was asleep to listen to [his] dreams (because [Plaintiff] talks in [his] sleep).” Id. at 3. Plaintiff claims that unnamed “officers who ha[ve] worked” at the prison “went to [his] relatives house using electronic devices, social media, [and] telephone to stalk [Plaintiff]” and to “obtain information about [Plaintiff] to bring back to the institution” to “intimidate” and “harass” Plaintiff. Id. at 2-3. According to Plaintiff, “officers” would ...

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